Maduro, mired in crises, hits re-election campaign trail

by Maria Isabel SANCHEZ Agence France-Presse CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) – With Venezuela in economic free-fall, massively unpopular President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday launched his sudden campaign for a new term in a vote to be held by late April. The 55-year-old, who was Hugo Chavez’s handpicked successor, will be the ruling socialist party’s sole candidate. Maduro, a former union activist and bus driver assumed power in April 2013 after longtime president Hugo Chavez died in office from […]

From stardom to politics: some precedents

PARIS, France (AFP) — Former international football star George Weah, who has won Liberia’s presidential run-off, follows several celebrities who have achieved the top job in their countries. However, only one sportsman — Hungary’s double Olympic fencing champion Pal Schmitt — has previously become president. Here are some precedents: US: Reagan and Trump B movie actor Ronald Reagan, who played in Hollywood for more than two decades, was the first cinema star to enter the […]

Batman ‘geek’ spends time between the US Senate and Gotham City

by Leo Mouren Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — This Batman mega fan calls himself “a bit of a geek,” but everyone else calls him senator — as in US Senator Patrick Leahy, a veteran Democratic lawmaker. The 77-year-old Leahy is such a fan of the Caped Crusader that he has made cameo appearances in five Batman movies, including “Batman Forever” (1995), Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” (2008), and most recently in “Batman vs Superman” […]

Leaks show US commerce chief, UK queen’s offshore investments

by Issam AHMED Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has business ties to a shipping firm linked to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, according to a vast leak of financial documents that also revealed Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s investments in tax havens. It was also revealed that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top fundraiser and senior advisor Stephen Bronfman, heir to the Seagram fortune, moved some $60 million to offshore […]

Scarred by Trump, challengers eye 2020

by Michael Mathes Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – One year on from Donald Trump’s shock election, US Democrats are still struggling to heal the wounds of Hillary Clinton’s calamitous defeat and identify a champion to challenge a deeply unpopular president in 2020. For Democrats it has been a sobering first 10 months under Donald Trump. Republicans control the White House and Congress. With Trump’s upset wins in once-liberal bastions Wisconsin and Michigan, the heartland is […]

UK government under pressure to publish Brexit papers

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – The British government came under pressure on Wednesday to publish papers detailing the potential impact of Brexit, after MPs appealed to a rare parliamentary power. The opposition Labour party tabled the “humble address” motion in which they called for the government to publish its assessment of 58 sectors, including tourism and nuclear. London’s Brexit department has so far refused to make their findings public, claiming that doing so could harm its negotiating […]

McCain takes swipe at Trump military service record

  WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – Senator John McCain has taken a barely-veiled jab at President Donald Trump’s avoidance of military service, sharply escalating their war of words. Republican McCain was interviewed by broadcaster CSPAN on the 50th anniversary of his being shot down over Vietnam, which led to his five-year stay as a prisoner in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison. “One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that […]

‘Czech Trump’ poised to win vote, promises ‘new stage’

by Jan Flemr and Jan Marchal Agence France-Presse PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AFP) – A billionaire populist dubbed the “Czech Trump” vowed a new stage in Czech politics as voters head to the polls Saturday in day two of an election expected to sweep him into power. Betting on his anti-euro, anti-migrant and anti-corruption ticket, ANO (Yes) movement chief Andrej Babis topped opinion polls by a wide margin ahead of the ballot that ends Saturday afternoon. Babis […]

Abe in pole position as Japan vote enters home straight

by Richard Carter Agence France-Presse TOKYO, Japan (AFP) – Candidates in Japan made a last-ditch plea to voters Saturday on the last day of campaigning before an election expected to return Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to power with a comfortable majority. Polls show Abe and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are clear favorites to win Sunday’s election, handing him a fresh mandate for his hardline stance on North Korea and “Abenomics” growth strategy. Abe’s coalition is […]

Kenya poll official quits, says election not ‘credible’

by Fran Blandy Agence France-Presse One of Kenya’s top election officials quit Wednesday in a searing statement accusing her colleagues of political bias and saying an upcoming presidential election could not be credible. The resignation of one of seven poll commissioners is the latest dramatic twist to an election process that has plunged the East African nation into its worst political crisis in a decade. “The commission in its current state can surely not guarantee […]

Protesters rally against Catalan independence in Barcelona

by Daniel Silva and Diego Urdaneta Agence France-Presse BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) – Protesters flocked to Barcelona on Sunday wrapped in Spanish flags to rally against plans by separatist leaders to declare Catalonia independent following a banned secession referendum. Catalans calling themselves a “silent majority” opposed to leaving Spain broke their silence after a week of mounting anxiety over Spain’s worst political crisis in a generation. Hundreds of people gathered on the city’s Urquinaona square waving red and […]

Anger in Singapore as no election for president

SINGAPORE (AFP) — Singaporeans Tuesday poured scorn on the process to select their new president after an establishment figure was deemed the only eligible candidate, meaning no election will be held. Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament from the city-state’s Muslim Malay minority, will be the first woman to hold the largely ceremonial role if — as expected — she is formally nominated to the presidency Wednesday. But the 63-year-old will avoid an election […]